This week has been the biggest so far in my role as Minister for Childcare and Early Years, which I now balance with my constituency work as a Highlands and Islands MSP.
Announcing that almost a billion pounds will be invested annually to fund the huge expansion of early learning and childcare, transforming the life chances of children in Scotland,doesn’t happen every day.
So it was very satisfying, after extensive consultation, to be able to reach a shared understanding of the costs of the expansion and secure agreement on a multi-year funding package with COSLA leaders.
This will see the Scottish Government invest an additional £567 million per year by 2020-21 to ensure that every child can access 1140 hours of fully funded early learning and childcare, bringing total annual public spend on early learning and childcare to around £990 million.
In addition, we will provide councils with total capital funding of £476 million over four years to support associated buildings projects.
The funding will provide approximately £4500 of savings per child per family. It will also create high quality living wage jobs in every community in Scotland. But most importantly it will allow the provision of high quality education for all our children; essentially we are closing the poverty-related attainment gap before it happens.This is great news for children and families across Scotland.
It is a real landmark agreement, the culmination of over two years of hard work to establish a robust shared understanding of the costs attached to the expansion. I’m grateful to all those in local authorities who have worked tirelessly to prepare expansion plans and cost estimates. As we move into a delivery phase, I look forward to continuing to work closely with our partners in local government.
Making sure that all children get the best possible start in life is a key priority for this Government and the evidence tells us that if our early learning and childcare offer is to help give children the best start in life, it has to be of high quality. That is why we are determined to get this right and ensure that the right amount of funding is in place.
I was also pleased to see Humza Yousaf visit Orkney as Minister for Transport and Islands and, as well as discussing the future of the Northern Isles ferries contract, give an update on Road Equivalent Tariff. It has always been promised that RET would be delivered for the Northern Isles ferries in the first half of 2018, so it was reassuring to hear that this is still on course.
Looking further south, I can’t help but contrast what the Scottish Government have been doing this week with the performance of the UK Government. While Home Secretary Amber Rudd fell on her sword, the shameful and shambolic treatment of the Windrush generation is yet another symptom of a cruel and chaotic regime.
I’m happy to be part of a Government that gets on with the day job.
This is a regular column from local MSP Maree Todd, SNP. Local MSPs for the Conservatives, Labour and Greens have also been offered a regular column.